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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

What Books Did You Add to Your Shelf in 2016 ???

As a writer, I’m also a reader. 2016 was a busy year. Here’s my list, and recommendations for all readers and writers and artists:

The tail of the spines …

Because They Wanted To (Mary Gaitskill)
The Keep (F. Paul Wilson)
In a Free State (V.S. Naipaul)
MaddAddam (Margaret Atwood)
Crime and Punishment (F. Dostoevsky)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami)
Bring Up the Bodies (Hilary Mantel)
The Wapshot Scandal (John Cheever)
The Savage Detectives (Roberto Bolano)
Cat’s Eye (Margaret Atwood)
Star: The Life & Times of Warren Beatty (Biskind)
London Belongs to Me (Norman Collins)
Millroy the Magician (Paul Theroux)
The Secondary Colors (Alexander Theroux)
Dan Leno & The Limehouse Golem (Peter Ackroyd)
Daniel Martin (John Fowles)
Waiting for Sunrise (William Boyd)
The Facts: a novelist’s autobiography (Philip Roth)
Humboldt’s Gift (Saul Bellow)
The Wasteland & other poems, (T.S. Eliot)
The Heart Goes Last (Margaret Atwood)
Life Before Man (Margaret Atwood)
Germany: memories of a nation (Neil MacGregor)
April in Paris (i fired this one)
The Cowards (Josef Skvorecky)
The Western Coast (Paula Fox)
Immortality (Milan Kundera)
Daily Rituals (Mason Currey)
Tests of Time (William H. Gass)
Patrimony (Philip Roth)
Shop Talk (Philip Roth)
Laughable Loves (Milan Kundera)
The Enigma of Arrival (V.S. Naipaul)

33 books
12,591 pages
5,162,310 words

Readers will want to look into “Germany” and “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” … Writers will want to reader deeply with “Crime and Punishment” and “Daniel Martin” and “The Savage Detectives” and “Millroy the Magician” … Artists will find lots to feel with “The Secondary Colors” and “Humboldt’s Gift” and “Tests of Time”

What have been your favorites from 2016??

A QUORA question…

Recently (or not so, but now I’ve re-found the forum) I came across an interesting question: WHAT ARE SOME GOOD WRITERS GROUPS TO JOIN ONLINE?

Firstly, I have some strong opinions about “learning to write fiction”, and even stronger about writers groups. Without getting into those bags of snakes, here is my answer to the above question:

You might find a writing group that helps you look further into your writing. That would be good. However, be aware that fellow writing group inmates may have the same “problems” or need help as much as yourself. Do you really want to take advice from people who likely — practically speaking — can’t write any better than you do at this point?

What you need, conversely, is a good mentor, or better yet, someone who knows books and how story works and what’s all inside character and narrative. A friend, a lover, an acquaintance? Maybe you can find this person within an online group. Wonderful.

Ultimately, however, you’re going to have to learn from the masters, those who’ve come before you, those whose proven craft of storytelling is obvious from the first sentence and doesn’t let up, won’t let you go, even long after you’ve completed the book.

For that I have a decent list you might begin with: Margaret Atwood, Richard Ford, Iris Murdoch, Mary Gaitskill, Saul Bellow, Nabokov, V.S. Naipaul, Paul Theroux and Alex Theroux. Read everything by Philip Roth. Read the Russians, the French; Goethe and Cervantes; Dickens and Henry James (he was more Brit than American). Read Edith Wharton. All of these authors provide a master-class in the techniques — and art — of writing fiction.


My latest novel is “Max, the blind guy” from which you can read an excerpt here.